To Change Is to Improve


Product reformulation is an ongoing process in response to consumer health demands, reports Jonathan Thomas.

Trends in health and nutrition differ between the markets for frozen bakery goods and potato products. With the former, the greater consumer desire for healthier varieties of bread and cakes has led to more manufacturers fortifying their products with ingredients such as fibre and protein. In contrast, producers of frozen potato products have less scope to innovate in this way, preferring instead to focus upon the removal of ingredients associated with poor diets, such as salt and saturated fats. 

Bakery goods

Although most bakery goods are sold and consumed fresh, a sizeable global market for frozen varieties also exists. Worldwide sales of frozen bakery products were valued at almost USD43bn in 2022 by SkyQuest Technology, a figure forecast to increase by an annual average of more than 4% to around USD60bn by 2030. Much of this growth is likely to be driven by the ease of preparation of many products, as well as their long shelf life and affordable price. Frozen bakery products are also more attractive from a cost perspective for customers such as in-store bakeries (ISBs), quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and coffee shops as they require less labour, although market development has been hindered by the comparative lack of cold chain distribution facilities in parts of the world.

The market is largely made up of products such as bread, pastries, and cakes, as well as other foods like pizza. One of the more dynamic sectors is the market for part-baked and ready-to-bake foods, which are frequently referred to as bake-off solutions. For customers such as ISBs, the choice usually lies between making bakery goods such as bread from scratch using raw ingredients, or opting for dough which is part-baked and then frozen. This latter option is often favoured, since this enables retailers to offer a wider choice of freshly prepared bakery goods, turning out higher volumes at a lower cost and resulting in more efficient production systems. 

Consumption of certain types of bakery goods such as bread and cakes remain heavily influenced by consumer concerns regarding health and nutrition. Some of the more common ingredients whose presence bakery manufacturers have sought to reduce the presence of have included salt and saturated fats, as well as artificial additives. At the same time, efforts at reformulation have also featured the addition of ingredients usually carrying health claims. Fibre is a popular example, since it carries links with improved digestive health and lower cholesterol, bakery goods such as bread are now being enriched with additional protein. Not only has protein been shown to assist in the building and repair of muscles and tissue, but it can also suppress hunger levels and therefore aid in weight management.

Consumers want healthier, richer-in-fiber options

Recent consumer research highlights the importance of healthy ingredients for bakery goods. According to a pan-European survey carried out by Delifrance in 2020, the availability of more healthy options would encourage over a fifth (21%) of consumers to eat more bread. The same survey found that 17% of respondents were actively seeking out bread fortified with additional vitamins and/or nutrients, while 22% wanted to see more bread with lower fat levels and thus fewer calories.

These findings have been backed up by more recent research, one example of which was from Tate & Lyle in 2022. This survey (which canvassed the opinions of 1,250 over-18s in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland) found that two-thirds of respondents were likely to opt for a bakery product containing additional fibre. For 32% of consumers, the health claim ‘no added sugar’ would encourage them to eat more bakery products, compared with 22% for lower fat levels and 19% for reduced calories. In the US, research released by Cargill at the start of 2023 found that 42% of adults viewed ingredients as a key purchasing decision when buying bakery goods such as cakes, cookies, and pastries. This figure decreased to 39% for nutrition scores and 28% for specific product health claims. 

The Delifrance survey also found that 40% of consumers are positively inclined towards breads rich in fibre, compared with 21% for products with additional protein. Significant opportunities for bakery manufacturers therefore exist in this sphere, given that many consumers in western markets such as the UK and the US are eating less than the recommended daily amount of fibre – in the UK, the average daily intake is less than 20g, compared with the 30g recommended by government guidelines.

To read the entire article, please access your complimentary e-copy of Frozen Food Europe January-February, 2024 issue here.